Farm Horizons, February 2012

Will you join?

By Myron Oftedahl
Farm Business Management Instructor, South Central College

How often have you been asked to join something?

They usually tell you the benefits of joining their organization, like availability of insurance, doing projects in the community, this is your voice at the capitol, etc.

While these are all good reasons, there are some reasons to join that usually aren’t talked about, such as fellowship or networking with your peers. Organizations are a great place to network with people outside of your usual circle of friends.

While at a recent soybean growers meeting, I was involved in a conversation with a farmer from Wisconsin and another from Tennessee, and we compared the growing season and a host of other farming topics. I found out that some things we do similarly and some things we do differently.

Organizations usually give us a chance to develop some leadership skills. I can hear you scream already, “I don’t want to be an officer or have to speak in front of a group!”

Leadership is more than being an officer. You can learn leadership skills by working on a committee and seeing that all voices are heard, and that everyone is working together and having fun. Yes, being an officer is a huge leadership responsibility, but is often rewarding when you can look back and see what has been accomplished during that time.

I recently heard a speaker talking about leadership, and he compared it to a flock of geese, where the lead goose is always changing, while the rest of the geese in the formation are honking encouragement. Can you do that? Take your turn and offer encouragement to the others in your organization.

I was a delegate for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association this week, as MSGA celebrated 50 years of being an association. Do you think that the 26 folks who began MSGA in 1962 would be proud to see what the organization is today?

And yes, it is true that one of the benefits of many organizations is that they will lobby on your behalf to the folks at the state capitol and in Washington. Would you do this for yourself if you were not a member?

Farmers now represent less than 2 percent of the population, with more than two-thirds of the population more than two generations away from the farm. Do your grandchildren have an opportunity to see what farm life is like? Do your neighbors’ grandchildren have this opportunity?

We need to reach out to these people and remind them that we are raising the safest food available in the country and the world. We need to remind these people that we truly do care about the animals that we raise, before Humane Society of the United States gives them a distorted view.

HSUS states on its website that one of its goals is to eliminate animal agriculture. Where do you think your meat, milk, and eggs will come from then?

We need to be an advocate for our business and lifestyle, either on our own, through a membership in an organization, or both.

The next time someone asks you to help with a committee or to join an organization, ask yourself, “Will it help me grow?” Will it help me develop leadership skills? Will it help me with a voice at the capitol? Will it help me tell the agriculture story? Will it help ensure a safe and abundant supply of food? We may raise corn and soybeans, but ultimately, we are raising food.

So, join. Join to have that chance to network with someone in Tennessee; join to work on that committee; join to learn how to work together and have fun; join to improve your community; join to have a chance to be a leader; join to tell others how you farm and provide food for the world.

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